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We Can Thank Jackie Chan and ‘Rush Hour’ for Rotten Tomatoes

The Big Picture

  • In 1998,
    Rush Hour
    was released and became a breakout Hollywood film for Jackie Chan, propelling him to international stardom.
  • The comedic nature of
    Rush Hour
    , featuring the contrasting personalities of Chan and Chris Tucker, made it a box-office success and spawned a series of popular buddy-cop comedy films.
  • Rush Hour
    indirectly influenced the creation of Rotten Tomatoes, as a fan’s frustration with the lack of Jackie Chan film reviews led to the creation of a website that would eventually become the popular movie review aggregator.

1998 was a fascinating year in popular culture. Furbies were taking over the world, Seinfeld was airing its final season, and Jackie Chan was planting the seeds for what was to become his breakout Hollywood picture, Rush Hour. Chan was already a big star in Asia and in Europe with hits like Drunken Master, Police Story, and Armour of God. A worldwide release of Rumble in the Bronx in 1995 opened the Western world’s eyes to the martial arts phenomenon, and filmmaker Brett Ratner wanted to bring him to the forefront of a film that would showcase his talents. Little did he know that the picture would also indirectly be responsible for influencing a new age in the appreciation of movies.

Rush Hour movie poster

Rush Hour

A loyal and dedicated Hong Kong Inspector teams up with a reckless and loudmouthed L.A.P.D. detective to rescue the Chinese Consul’s kidnapped daughter, while trying to arrest a dangerous crime lord along the way.

Release Date
September 18, 1998


Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker Didn’t Think They Had Chemistry

Brett Ratner clearly had a vision in mind regarding the screenplay written by Ross LaManna, and he was dead set on casting Chan as Chief Inspector Lee. The filmmaker flew to South Africa, where the actor was filming Who Am I?, to personally court Chan into starring in his project. They had lunch and the filmmaker dined, drank, and smoked cigars with Jackie. Ratner, who didn’t drink or smoke, acceded to the actor’s offers and pitched his idea. Chan drove him to the airport, and a few days later, called him to confirm his participation. Not long after that, Jackie flew to Los Angeles to meet his partner in the film, Chris Tucker. It was, as the film’s tagline succinctly puts it, a meeting where the fastest hands in the East meet the biggest mouth in the West.

While Tucker was absolutely ecstatic to meet Jackie Chan, they had reservations about a possible working relationship based on their first impressions of each other. Tucker pulled Ratner aside and questioned how the movie was going to work, since Chan didn’t really understand much English. Chan, on the other hand, mentioned to Ratner that he likes Chris, but he cannot understand the way he talks. Usually, this would be the genesis of a project’s downfall. How can two people who cannot understand each other be able to shoot, let alone finish a film together? Ratner took this as the perfect storm. The director himself states that this collision would extract every single bit of their contrasting personalities to cinematic perfection.

What Is ‘Rush Hour’ About?

This initial conversation between Chan and Tucker went on to become the inspiration for the most iconic line in the picture (“do you understand the words that are coming out of my mouth?”), and is exactly what would define what makes their hilarious dynamic work. Rush Hour runs a fairly simple story. During the last day of British occupation in Hong Kong, Lee leads a raid of a port where he hopes to finally lock up Juntao, an elusive crime boss. He recovers several Chinese artifacts from the scene and presents them to the Chinese Consul Han (Tzi Ma), and Police Commander Thomas Griffin (Tom Wilkinson). After a few months, Consul Han, who now works in Los Angeles, has his daughter Soo Yung kidnapped. He enlists the help of his trusted Chief Inspector Lee to help him. The FBI intervenes, and to avoid an international incident, they ask the LAPD to provide someone to keep Lee at Bay, and James Carter is given the assignment. The two are enveloped in a string of events where they eventually find out that Griffin is actually Juntao, foil his grand plan of taking all the Chinese treasures for himself, and successfully retrieve Soo Yung.

From a critical standpoint, there isn’t anything relatively new about Rush Hour and its antics. There have been a plethora of buddy cop comedies in the past, all of which have been made to tickle the funny bones. However, it was the first time most Western audiences had been able to get a glimpse of Chan in a Hollywood production. For those who weren’t deep into the already established filmography of Jackie Chan, this was a fresh look into an already hashed formula and partnered with the loudmouthed style of Chris Tucker, it set the box-office on fire. Rush Hour grossed over $140 million, becoming the seventh-biggest movie of 1998, and started a series of movies that would go on to generate more than $800 million in ticket sales. It was a worldwide phenomenon and put Chan on a level he hasn’t come down from since. Chan successfully captured the attention of moviegoers all over the globe, and one in particular was so entertained by it, that he started the most popular film review aggregator site on the internet.

A Fan of Jackie Chan Invented Rotten Tomatoes

Movies listed on rotten tomatoes with a blue hue over it and a Rotten Tomatoes Logo
Custom Image by Collider Staff

Senh Dong was a big Jackie Chan fan, and was exhilarated to learn of Rush Hour and its nearing release. Excited about the film, he wanted to reinvigorate his fandom by looking for reviews of Chan’s work on the internet. Unfortunately, Senh could not find much of them during the summer of 1998, and decided to build a fan page devoted to covering his works and updates on Rush Hour. However, when the release of the film was delayed, he was stuck at a roadblock. What now of his project, and what would he do with his spare time until the movie was finally in theaters?

He saw a rare gap in the internet’s field of information, and decided to aggregate different reviews for other movies to be released, with Neil Labute‘s Your Friends and Neighbors becoming its first page to launch. Co-founder Stephen Wang then shares that Senh went on to formulate the signature aspects of Rotten Tomatoes, such as the Tomatometer, fresh and rotten classifications for its reviews, and the Rotten Tomatoes name. Fandom does have its inherent wonders, and the appreciation Senh had for Jackie Chan built a venue where others could also appreciate and share their input on the films they love.

Rush Hour is unapologetic with its humor, but it is reductive to think of the film in that matter alone. There are magnificent stunt sequences where Chan shows inhuman athleticism, and it gave him an avenue to magnify his endearing charisma. Arguably, this is also Chris Tucker’s best work, partly due to the tailor-made dynamic he and Chan have. Rarely does a comedic duo bring so much diversity to the table in terms of their abilities, and when the two stars share the screen, it becomes a melting pot of two vastly different cultures, resulting in an alphabet soup of hilarity. Rush Hour may be dated for some, but its influence will forever reverberate as long as Rotten Tomatoes is here.

Rush Hour is available to rent or buy on Prime Video in the U.S.


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